Freekeh-stuffed pigeon

Freekeh-stuffed pigeon

Cairo Kitchen
Jonathan Gregson

One of the dishes Egypt is famous for is stuffed pigeons, called ‘hamam mahshi’ in Arabic. Considered a great delicacy since ancient times, there are some restaurants in Egypt that specialise in pigeon dishes. Pigeon meat is dark and fatty, much like duck meat, and because each pigeon has only a little bit, people eat a whole pigeon or two per meal. Domesticated young pigeons that have never flown, also known as squab, provide the most tender meat. For this recipe we have used the traditional stuffing of freekeh and flavoured it with cinnamon and allspice.


Quantity Ingredient
4 pigeons, plus their livers/hearts
200g freekeh
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
50g blanched almonds
30g raisins
25g butter, melted
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

For the broth

Quantity Ingredient
2 bay leaves
4 cardamom pods
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 small onion, quartered
6 sprigs fresh coriander
2 slices orange
5 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt


  1. Wash the pigeons under cold running water, then dry and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Soak the freekeh in water for 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium pan sauté the onion in the oil over a medium heat until softened, but not browned. Add the livers and hearts, cinnamon, allspice and salt and pepper, to taste, and stir for a couple of minutes until the livers are cooked through and no longer pink.
  4. Add the drained freekeh and stir in. Pour in the 350 ml water, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  5. Toast the almonds by placing in a dry frying pan and stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes until they turn golden brown.
  6. Add the toasted almonds and raisins to the freekeh mixture and stir well. Stuff each pigeon with the freekeh mixture and seal the cavities closed with a toothpick.
  7. To make the broth, pour 2 litres water into a deep pan and add the bay leaves, cardamoms, garlic, onion, coriander, orange, peppercorns and salt and bring up to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and carefully place the pigeons in the pan. Allow them to simmer for 25 minutes or until well done.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  9. Remove the pigeons from the broth and drain any excess water, reserving the broth to make an extra side of freekeh if you wish (just use the broth instead of the water).
  10. Place the pigeons in a large ovenproof dish and brush with the melted butter. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Garnish with the chopped parsley to serve.
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